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Editorial: Newsday endorses Thomas DiNapoli for state comptroller

Thomas DiNapoli meets with the Newsday editorial board.

Thomas DiNapoli meets with the Newsday editorial board. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

In nearly eight years as comptroller for New York State, Thomas P. DiNapoli has been steady, competent and conscientious. That's just what was needed when DiNapoli took over the office in 2007. That's what's needed in that post now.

DiNapoli's predecessor, Alan Hevesi, was forced to resign because of corruption, which cast a huge shadow over the office. DiNapoli, known for his bipartisan approach and squeaky-clean reputation, was picked by the legislature to fill the position, and he won election in 2010.

He's done the job well despite difficult times. In his second year in the job, the real estate and stock markets collapsed. The massive retirement fund of which he is the sole trustee was hemorrhaging money, and the municipalities and school districts that pay into it faced serious revenue challenges.

DiNapoli, well-respected after decades in public service, was a reassuring presence. Returns of the fund stabilized as the markets did. Today it is 92 percent funded to handle its obligations, among the best in the nation, and stands at $182 billion in assets. The pension rate paid by local governments on payroll, after years of steep hikes, went down a tad last year and should decline about 10 percent more this year. And DiNapoli fought for a pension-smoothing plan for local governments that, while it did amount to borrowing for an operational obligation, generally a bad idea, helped school districts and municipalities survive huge pension bills.

DiNapoli, 60, also created an office of inspector general to monitor his own agency, and a special counsel for ethics, both important strides.

He has increased the audits done by the office -- in particular, taking pointed looks at stressed municipalities, the real effects of gambling and the sometimes deceptive budgeting of school districts.

DiNapoli, of Great Neck, is a Democrat. Running against him is Robert Antonacci II, 50, of Syracuse, the Republican comptroller of Onondaga County. Antonacci has a fine resumé, but it doesn't match DiNapoli's record.

Antonacci is a certified public accountant and a lawyer who has been elected twice to his current post. He understands what the state job entails. And he makes an impassioned plea for more and better audits on state politicians and on government spending to determine whether legislators are abusing the per diems they get paid to be in Albany, and whether campaign contributors are getting paid off in contracts.

Antonacci supports a hard look at the culture of corruption in New York, and he's right. DiNapoli needs to make auditing and investigating lawmakers more of a priority.

Antonacci supports a 401(k)-type option for public employees who'd prefer it to a pension, which DiNapoli fervently opposes. He should reconsider.

 

The race is being run as a test of public campaign financing in statewide races. So far, the answer is not heartening. DiNapoli turned down the matching funds because he already had a huge coffer when the legislature picked his race for the experiment. He says the process this year was flawed, but he supports public campaign financing in general.

With just a month left in his campaign, Antonacci is still trying to qualify for matching funds. Though he's reached the donor threshold of 2,000, he has not collected the $200,000 necessary to earn his publicly funded match.

DiNapoli has done a fine job in every aspect of the post, showing competence and energy. He has done a considerable number of public corruption investigations with federal and local prosecutors. Doing more and aiming at tougher targets would be great additions to his portfolio.

Newsday endorses DiNapoli.

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